Commentary Magazine


Posts For: August 8, 2012

It’s Not About the Price of Pizza

Yesterday, Jonathan wrote about the increased price of pizza for customers of Papa John’s in light of the Affordable Care Act, showcasing a very real-world and imminent example of how the healthcare law will increase costs not just for taxpayers, but also for consumers. Many of our respondents held this view:

It is shocking that the CEO of Papa John’s and this magazine commentator would begrduge the near-poor workers of that company health insurance — and better healthcare for a few cents per pie!! Our country is based on the premise that we all pay a little more to help those less fortunate — the key here is “a little more.” Does anyone really object to that??

What this person and other liberals have wrong is this: It’s not about the price of pizza. If it were actually possible to improve healthcare for millions of Americans and insure millions more, conservatives would be on board. The basis of conservative opposition to ObamaCare is this: We do not think it will help the majority of Americans. The bill is titled the “Affordable Care Act,” but does nothing to make healthcare more affordable, nor will it improve health care. In reality, it provides a worse standard of care at a higher cost.

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Yesterday, Jonathan wrote about the increased price of pizza for customers of Papa John’s in light of the Affordable Care Act, showcasing a very real-world and imminent example of how the healthcare law will increase costs not just for taxpayers, but also for consumers. Many of our respondents held this view:

It is shocking that the CEO of Papa John’s and this magazine commentator would begrduge the near-poor workers of that company health insurance — and better healthcare for a few cents per pie!! Our country is based on the premise that we all pay a little more to help those less fortunate — the key here is “a little more.” Does anyone really object to that??

What this person and other liberals have wrong is this: It’s not about the price of pizza. If it were actually possible to improve healthcare for millions of Americans and insure millions more, conservatives would be on board. The basis of conservative opposition to ObamaCare is this: We do not think it will help the majority of Americans. The bill is titled the “Affordable Care Act,” but does nothing to make healthcare more affordable, nor will it improve health care. In reality, it provides a worse standard of care at a higher cost.

Under ObamaCare, 17 million Americans will be added to Medicaid’s rolls in order to move some Americans from the uninsured to the insured column. Are they actually better off? In National Review, Avik Roy demonstrates why they are not. He explains:

In July 2010, at National Review Online’s Critical Condition blog, I wrote about a University of Virginia study, published in Annals of Surgery, finding that surgical patients on Medicaid endured a 97 percent higher likelihood of in-hospital death than patients with private insurance, and a 13 percent greater chance of death than those with no insurance at all. I noted several other clinical studies that showed similar results.

Roy is an expert on the perils of Medicaid and recently published a heartbreaking story about a young boy on Medicaid who died from a simple tooth abscess. This story is heartbreaking not only because it was entirely preventable, but also because this is the broken system that millions of vulnerable Americans are subjected to and millions more are about to experience. Two years ago, before I was with COMMENTARY, and before I even worked in the conservative movement, I wrote a post on my personal blog about growing up on Medicaid. This young boy’s story about dying from a tooth abscess could have been my own; it almost was. I could not find a reputable dentist that would accept my insurance and when I was finally able to get an appointment with a dentist that accepted Medicaid I experienced nothing but fraud and incompetence. I also could not find a reliable oral surgeon for a simple wisdom tooth extraction. The one I ended up with charged Medicaid for general anesthesia which he did not administer — I was wide awake for my entire surgery. My experience was far from unique, and this is the system that we’re now set to expand under ObamaCare.

There are many more costly provisions on deck for ObamaCare before we see the full effect of the healthcare law. Jonathan’s post about the increased cost of pizza was just the tip of the iceberg. Not only will we see more costs ahead (in the form of increased goods and services, taxes and healthcare premiums), but we will also see a marked decline in the quality of our healthcare with fewer doctors to administer it.

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A Fitting Answer to the IOC’s Snub

In the end, the families of the 11 Israeli Olympic athletes and coaches who were murdered at the Munich Olympics 40 years ago and millions of Jews who mourned with them, got a bit of satisfaction out of the London Games. Though the International Olympic Committee (IOC) stubbornly refused to devote even a minute of an hours-long opening ceremony for a moment of silence for the victims of Munich (while giving several minutes to a memorial to the victims of the London subway bombings), American gymnast Alexandra Raisman had an appropriate response. By saying her gold medal-winning performance in the floor exercise was in part a memorial to the Israelis who perished long before she was born, Raisman gave us a genuine moment of Jewish pride that places the IOC’s shameful stand in perspective.

As the Massachusetts native told the New York Post, she did not select the “Hava Nagila” Hebrew dance music deliberately to honor the Munich 11, but she took special satisfaction from winning the gold 40 years after the massacre. Doing so, she said, “meant a lot” to her. She also said she would have supported and respected an Olympic moment of silence for Munich. Her statement and victory ought to comfort Jews who were rightly outraged by the double standard shown by the IOC, but it doesn’t change the fact that the decision to snub the Munich victims at the opening ceremony was a telling indication of the group’s prejudice against Israel and Jews.

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In the end, the families of the 11 Israeli Olympic athletes and coaches who were murdered at the Munich Olympics 40 years ago and millions of Jews who mourned with them, got a bit of satisfaction out of the London Games. Though the International Olympic Committee (IOC) stubbornly refused to devote even a minute of an hours-long opening ceremony for a moment of silence for the victims of Munich (while giving several minutes to a memorial to the victims of the London subway bombings), American gymnast Alexandra Raisman had an appropriate response. By saying her gold medal-winning performance in the floor exercise was in part a memorial to the Israelis who perished long before she was born, Raisman gave us a genuine moment of Jewish pride that places the IOC’s shameful stand in perspective.

As the Massachusetts native told the New York Post, she did not select the “Hava Nagila” Hebrew dance music deliberately to honor the Munich 11, but she took special satisfaction from winning the gold 40 years after the massacre. Doing so, she said, “meant a lot” to her. She also said she would have supported and respected an Olympic moment of silence for Munich. Her statement and victory ought to comfort Jews who were rightly outraged by the double standard shown by the IOC, but it doesn’t change the fact that the decision to snub the Munich victims at the opening ceremony was a telling indication of the group’s prejudice against Israel and Jews.

Though events have been held to honor the victims in London and elsewhere, the IOC and its leader Jacques Rogge have made sure that none were held at the Games themselves. The reason, as we have written before, isn’t hard to figure out. Many of the participating countries at the Olympics approve of Palestinian terrorism and don’t recognize Israel’s existence. Before the opening ceremony, some of us speculated as to whether the organization would snub others as they’ve done to the Israelis, but after the tribute to the London bombing victims, we got our answer.

The IOC response to appeals for a moment of silence was yet another indication that what the State Department has called a “rising tide of anti-Semitism” has infected the global sports world as well as other sectors of international opinion. But Raisman’s win and her willingness to stand up for the victims is a reminder to the anti-Semites that the spirit of the Jewish people cannot be extinguished by their hate.

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Obama Campaign Feigns Ignorance About Romney Attack

The Obama campaign has spent the last day and a half ducking questions about Joe Soptic, the steelworker featured in the Priorities USA attack ad. Campaign adviser Robert Gibbs, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney and Obama campaign spokeswomen Stephanie Cutter and Jen Psaki have gone so far as to claim they don’t know enough about the specifics of the Soptic story to comment on it. Well, it turns out the Obama campaign should actually be pretty familiar with the specifics — because they’ve used Soptic in their own campaign commercials and even set up conference calls between him and reporters. Politico reports:

Soptic, laid off from Bain Capital-owned GST Steel, stars in a Priorities USA Action spot this week in which he tells of how his wife died without health insurance after he lost his job. Soptic also appeared, wearing what appears to be an identical shirt, in a May television ad for the Obama campaign. …

[Stephanie] Cutter hosted an Obama campaign conference call in May in which Soptic told reporters the very story featured in the Priorities spot.

Both the campaign and the Priorities USA Action said there was no coordination about Soptic’s appearances. In the campaign’s ad, Soptic speaks only about the plant. In the Priorities spot, he tells the personal story he relayed during the Obama campaign conference call.

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The Obama campaign has spent the last day and a half ducking questions about Joe Soptic, the steelworker featured in the Priorities USA attack ad. Campaign adviser Robert Gibbs, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney and Obama campaign spokeswomen Stephanie Cutter and Jen Psaki have gone so far as to claim they don’t know enough about the specifics of the Soptic story to comment on it. Well, it turns out the Obama campaign should actually be pretty familiar with the specifics — because they’ve used Soptic in their own campaign commercials and even set up conference calls between him and reporters. Politico reports:

Soptic, laid off from Bain Capital-owned GST Steel, stars in a Priorities USA Action spot this week in which he tells of how his wife died without health insurance after he lost his job. Soptic also appeared, wearing what appears to be an identical shirt, in a May television ad for the Obama campaign. …

[Stephanie] Cutter hosted an Obama campaign conference call in May in which Soptic told reporters the very story featured in the Priorities spot.

Both the campaign and the Priorities USA Action said there was no coordination about Soptic’s appearances. In the campaign’s ad, Soptic speaks only about the plant. In the Priorities spot, he tells the personal story he relayed during the Obama campaign conference call.

It doesn’t matter that the Obama campaign isn’t “officially” connected to the Priorities USA ad. If the campaign has featured the same former GST Steel worker in its own ad, and set up conference calls for him, then a) staffers obviously know much more about his story than they have let on; and b) they have a responsibility to respond to questions about it. If someone is featured in a presidential campaign commercial, it means the campaign is vouching for this person and he has likely been vetted in some capacity. Obama and his team passed Joe Soptic off as a trustworthy source on multiple occasions, and they should have to answer for contradictions or discrepancies in his story.

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Jewish Dems Had No Religious Duty to Smear Adelson

The National Jewish Democratic Council may have bit off more than it could chew with its allegations about Republican donor Sheldon Adelson. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has apologized for making similar charges that the casino mogul profited from prostitution in his Macau property in China. But the NJDC has yet to back off on its attack, and the result is that Adelson has filed a $60 million libel lawsuit against the group.

Optimistic Jewish Democrats may hope the group will be able to raise some money from liberals who hate the billionaire who has contributed record amounts to Republican candidates as well as many Jewish philanthropic causes. But the problem with the NJDC posing as a martyr being harassed by the deep-pocketed conservative is that their behavior has been indefensible. Disagree with Adelson’s stands on the issues and his taste in candidates if you like, but calling someone a pimp without a shred of proof is not the stuff of First Amendment poster children. Proving libel is difficult, but on the face of it, the NJDC is going to be hard-pressed to prove its mudslinging wasn’t knowingly false as well as malicious.

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The National Jewish Democratic Council may have bit off more than it could chew with its allegations about Republican donor Sheldon Adelson. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has apologized for making similar charges that the casino mogul profited from prostitution in his Macau property in China. But the NJDC has yet to back off on its attack, and the result is that Adelson has filed a $60 million libel lawsuit against the group.

Optimistic Jewish Democrats may hope the group will be able to raise some money from liberals who hate the billionaire who has contributed record amounts to Republican candidates as well as many Jewish philanthropic causes. But the problem with the NJDC posing as a martyr being harassed by the deep-pocketed conservative is that their behavior has been indefensible. Disagree with Adelson’s stands on the issues and his taste in candidates if you like, but calling someone a pimp without a shred of proof is not the stuff of First Amendment poster children. Proving libel is difficult, but on the face of it, the NJDC is going to be hard-pressed to prove its mudslinging wasn’t knowingly false as well as malicious.

The NJDC put a brave face on the mess they talked themselves into with the following statement:

We will not be bullied into submission, and we will not be silenced by power. This is not Putin’s Russia, and in America, political speech regarding one of the most well-known public figures in our country is a fundamental right. One would think the person making greatest use of the Citizens United ruling would understand this. To be sure, referencing mainstream press accounts examining the conduct of a public figure and his business ventures—as we did—is wholly appropriate. Indeed, it is both an American and a Jewish obligation to ask hard questions of powerful individuals like Mr. Adelson, just as it is incumbent upon us to praise his wonderful philanthropic endeavors.

We know that we were well within our rights, and we will defend ourselves against this SLAPP suit as far and as long as necessary. We simply will not be bullied, and we will not be silenced.

They are right that political speech is protected, a point that the group — like other opponents of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling — often forgets. But there is a not so fine line between criticizing a public figure and spreading allegations that he is involved in prostitution. There was plenty of room for them to take shots at Adelson without using a palpably false smear. Even billionaires have a right to protect themselves against that sort of libel, and it will now be up to the NJDC to wise up and make an apology or face some serious economic consequences.

Even more to the point, the NJDC shouldn’t be dragging Judaism into this sordid fight they’ve started. Far from it being a specifically Jewish obligation to raise such issues, there is actually a specific religious prohibition against this sort of libel. Indeed, if there is anything that defines the concept of lashon hara or “evil tongue” — the provision in Jewish religious law against defamatory speech — it is calling a political opponent a pimp. For them to claim there was any such duty to smear him in this manner makes a mockery of Judaism.

Given the egregious nature of the NJDC’s offense, Adelson is well within his rights in pursuing a libel suit. Contrary to the NJDC’s whiny defense, this is not a SLAPP suit intended to silence legitimate or even outlandish political speech. Associating someone with prostitution is simply beyond the pale, even in the nasty world of politics.

That’s a lesson the group is about to learn to its sorrow. Though they may sound tough now, there’s little doubt they will soon be on their knees either begging Adelson to accept an apology or asking a court to let them off only because they didn’t know how false their wild accusations actually were.

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America’s Not a Kibbutz; Neither is Israel

Mitt Romney is catching some flak today for a statement made yesterday and first reported on BuzzFeed in which he contrasted American society and its economy as being very different from a socialist model. He told the crowd at a Chicago fundraiser:

“It’s individuals and their entrepreneurship which have driven America,” Romney said. “What America is not a collective where we all work in a kibbutz or we all in some little entity, instead it’s individuals pursuing their dreams and building successful enterprises which employ others and they become inspired as they see what has happened in the place they work and go off and start their own enterprises.”

This is being represented in some quarters as a knock on Israel or at least showing that, as BuzzFeed put it, his friendship for the Jewish state, “only extends so far.” But anyone who tries to represent this as somehow qualifying Romney’s backing for Israel or showing disrespect for it doesn’t know much about the real life Israel as opposed to myths from Leon Uris novels. While the kibbutz is an iconic symbol of the state’s beginnings, the collective farm movement is a dinosaur in modern Israel with only a minuscule role in its economy. Many of have gone bankrupt while others have become hotels or factories more than farms. Indeed, Israel’s current economic success is based on its transformation in the last generation into a first world economy rather than one handicapped by the socialist ideology of its founders.

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Mitt Romney is catching some flak today for a statement made yesterday and first reported on BuzzFeed in which he contrasted American society and its economy as being very different from a socialist model. He told the crowd at a Chicago fundraiser:

“It’s individuals and their entrepreneurship which have driven America,” Romney said. “What America is not a collective where we all work in a kibbutz or we all in some little entity, instead it’s individuals pursuing their dreams and building successful enterprises which employ others and they become inspired as they see what has happened in the place they work and go off and start their own enterprises.”

This is being represented in some quarters as a knock on Israel or at least showing that, as BuzzFeed put it, his friendship for the Jewish state, “only extends so far.” But anyone who tries to represent this as somehow qualifying Romney’s backing for Israel or showing disrespect for it doesn’t know much about the real life Israel as opposed to myths from Leon Uris novels. While the kibbutz is an iconic symbol of the state’s beginnings, the collective farm movement is a dinosaur in modern Israel with only a minuscule role in its economy. Many of have gone bankrupt while others have become hotels or factories more than farms. Indeed, Israel’s current economic success is based on its transformation in the last generation into a first world economy rather than one handicapped by the socialist ideology of its founders.

It is true that the kibbutz is, as Buzzfeed put it, “integral to the story of the founding of the state of Israel.” In pre-state Palestine, collective farms were useful in putting down claims on parts of the country at a time when the Jews were returning to their ancient homeland. They were more defensible than individual farmsteads and survived as much on the Zionist and socialist fervor of their members as their economic value. Though always small in number, their members formed part of the Jewish community’s elite and both before and after 1948, they often were disproportionately represented in the leadership of the Israel Defense Force and its precursor the Haganah.

But while Romney is obviously right that the collective idea has no place in America, it is a falsehood to assert that it still has much, if any, importance in Israel.

While collective farms played an outsized role in the formation of the state and its defense, in the long run they were not part of a viable economic model. For generations they have been subsidized by agricultural policies and direct aid from the state, something those who criticize funding for West Bank settlements often forget. But eventually even that wasn’t enough to keep many of them alive. If anything, they are now more of a symbol of the failed socialist economic policies the Labor Party imposed on the country for decades and which have now been replaced by a free market model that turned Israel into an economic powerhouse. The decline of the kibbutz is something of a cliché in Israeli society, and those farms are as out of place in its economy now as the old socialist and labor union monopolies that hamstrung development and a political leadership that refused to allow television until the 1970s. Though there is some nostalgia in Israel for the past, the idea that the country would return to the old East German model is absurd.

What Romney said was no gaffe. America isn’t a kibbutz. It never was and never will be. And Israel isn’t going back to them either.

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Reviving the War on Women?

Sandra Fluke, the free-contraception activist whose claim to fame was getting insulted by Rush Limbaugh, is hitting the campaign trail with President Obama in Colorado today. But she started the day off with an anti-Romney column in the Huffington Post (via Daily Caller):

The morning of noted contraception activist Sandra Fluke’s campaign appearance with President Barack Obama in Denver, the newly minted lawyer explained she is “standing with Obama” in an effort to protect women’s health care.

“This choice is personal for all of us because it will impact each of our lives. But for me, it’s intensely personal,” Fluke wrote in a Wednesday Huffington Post blog post, circulated by Obama for America. “Earlier this year, I was publicly attacked by Rush Limbaugh and others for testifying before members of Congress. I had shared stories of my friends and other young women, stories no different from those I’ve heard from women who also worry about having the health care they need.” …

“When Rush Limbaugh called me a ‘slut’ and a ‘prostitute’ for speaking about medical needs for contraception, Mr. Romney could only say that it ‘wasn’t the language [he] would have used,’” she added. “If Mr. Romney can’t stand up to the extreme voices in his own party, we know he’ll never stand up for women and protect the rights that generations of women fought so hard to ensure.”

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Sandra Fluke, the free-contraception activist whose claim to fame was getting insulted by Rush Limbaugh, is hitting the campaign trail with President Obama in Colorado today. But she started the day off with an anti-Romney column in the Huffington Post (via Daily Caller):

The morning of noted contraception activist Sandra Fluke’s campaign appearance with President Barack Obama in Denver, the newly minted lawyer explained she is “standing with Obama” in an effort to protect women’s health care.

“This choice is personal for all of us because it will impact each of our lives. But for me, it’s intensely personal,” Fluke wrote in a Wednesday Huffington Post blog post, circulated by Obama for America. “Earlier this year, I was publicly attacked by Rush Limbaugh and others for testifying before members of Congress. I had shared stories of my friends and other young women, stories no different from those I’ve heard from women who also worry about having the health care they need.” …

“When Rush Limbaugh called me a ‘slut’ and a ‘prostitute’ for speaking about medical needs for contraception, Mr. Romney could only say that it ‘wasn’t the language [he] would have used,’” she added. “If Mr. Romney can’t stand up to the extreme voices in his own party, we know he’ll never stand up for women and protect the rights that generations of women fought so hard to ensure.”

Is Fluke really still trying to cash in on the Limbaugh controversy? It wasn’t a nice thing for him to say, but come on. It’s been six months. Fluke is about as relevant to the current state of the race as Joe the Plumber; the birth control debate isn’t exactly at the top of voters’ agendas.

Which is exactly the point of Obama bringing her along on the campaign trail. It’s a continuation of the same strategy Democrats have been using since the spring — delay and distract and talk about anything that’s not related to the economy. See: accusing Romney of killing a steelworker’s wife, floating rumors about him avoiding taxes for 10 years and accusing Romney of lying about when he left Bain Capital. Reviving Sandra Fluke to renew her attack on the “anti-women” Republicans is the latest gimmick from a campaign that has been negative, dirty, and dishonest through and through.

But at least by getting out on the campaign trail, Fluke is being honest about who she is. Last spring, the media treated her as a nonpartisan law student, when she’s actually a left-wing activist with an agenda. At least now, that reality is indisputable.

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Polls Show Romney Needs a Change

Mitt Romney’s favorability ratings have plateaued, according to today’s Washington Post/ABC News poll. It’s not much of a surprise, considering the barrage of anti-Romney news during the past few weeks, but it still must be weighing on his mind this week as he makes his final decision on a running mate:

Mitt Romney’s favorability ratings have stalled over the course of his campaign’s bumpy summer months, with his earlier improvements as he was wrapping up the Republican nomination in the spring appearing to flat-line, according to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll.

While 40 percent of voters now say they hold a favorable opinion of the former Massachusetts governor–virtually unchanged from May–those holding negative views of Romney ticked higher in the new poll, from 45 percent to 49 percent.

Meanwhile, President Obama remained in positive territory on that measure, with 53 percent of voters reporting they hold favorable opinions of the incumbent. Only 43 percent say they feel unfavorably towards him.

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Mitt Romney’s favorability ratings have plateaued, according to today’s Washington Post/ABC News poll. It’s not much of a surprise, considering the barrage of anti-Romney news during the past few weeks, but it still must be weighing on his mind this week as he makes his final decision on a running mate:

Mitt Romney’s favorability ratings have stalled over the course of his campaign’s bumpy summer months, with his earlier improvements as he was wrapping up the Republican nomination in the spring appearing to flat-line, according to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll.

While 40 percent of voters now say they hold a favorable opinion of the former Massachusetts governor–virtually unchanged from May–those holding negative views of Romney ticked higher in the new poll, from 45 percent to 49 percent.

Meanwhile, President Obama remained in positive territory on that measure, with 53 percent of voters reporting they hold favorable opinions of the incumbent. Only 43 percent say they feel unfavorably towards him.

The stagnant polls are a sign Romney needs a change. If he picks a dull, mini-me running mate like Republican strategists were advising in Politico today, he’ll be ceding a certain amount of control over his election chances. He may be able to keep his favorability rating stable, or bump it up a few points. But mainly, he’ll be reliant on outside factors that could suppress Obama’s favorability ratings: the state of the economy, the situations in Iran and Syria, the battles in Congress, etc.

Choosing someone like Paul Ryan (or Rubio or Christie) would give Romney a chance to completely change the dynamic of the election — to make it about the larger conservative economic philosophy instead of Romney’s personal career in business. The election would still be a referendum on Obama, but at least Romney could provide a clear and bold alternative. So far, he hasn’t been able to; and a garden-variety VP pick isn’t going to help make that happen.

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Obama Ignores Own Executive Order on Gitmo Detainee Rights

It seems ages ago that President Obama delivered a speech in the early days of his presidency, suffused with self-righteousness and moral demagoguery, announcing he was closing the Guantanamo Bay prison. Unable to resist the temptation to smear his predecessor’s name with distortions and half-truths, the former law professor summoned all his reckless certainty to educate the American people: “Instead of building a durable framework for the struggle against al-Qaeda that drew upon our deeply held values and traditions, our government was defending positions that undermined the rule of law.”

So Obama, who supported the Supreme Court’s precedent-gutting Boumediene decision, which granted non-citizen enemy combatants habeas corpus rights, ordered the facility closed. Because that was an obviously empty promise, Obama added another executive order two years later establishing periodic review for detainees at the prison. And then the wheels came off the Moral Authority Express. It turned out instead of bringing enemy combatants to Guantanamo, where detainees are well-fed and have access to attorneys, Obama has been sending them to a disease-ridden hell-on-earth in Somalia. And the Obama administration began urging the Supreme Court to ignore the detainees’ appeals. And now it seems those periodic review boards were–what would the president call them? Just words:

The Obama administration has begun limiting the legal rights of terror suspects held at the Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba, telling a federal judge Tuesday the government alone should decide when the prisoners deserve regular access to their counsel.

In a 52-page filing, Justice Department lawyers said they have started restricting when Guantanamo prisoners can challenge their detention in a Washington-based federal court. If approved, any relaxing of the rules would be made on a case-by-case basis at the exclusive discretion of military officials, not by the courts.

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It seems ages ago that President Obama delivered a speech in the early days of his presidency, suffused with self-righteousness and moral demagoguery, announcing he was closing the Guantanamo Bay prison. Unable to resist the temptation to smear his predecessor’s name with distortions and half-truths, the former law professor summoned all his reckless certainty to educate the American people: “Instead of building a durable framework for the struggle against al-Qaeda that drew upon our deeply held values and traditions, our government was defending positions that undermined the rule of law.”

So Obama, who supported the Supreme Court’s precedent-gutting Boumediene decision, which granted non-citizen enemy combatants habeas corpus rights, ordered the facility closed. Because that was an obviously empty promise, Obama added another executive order two years later establishing periodic review for detainees at the prison. And then the wheels came off the Moral Authority Express. It turned out instead of bringing enemy combatants to Guantanamo, where detainees are well-fed and have access to attorneys, Obama has been sending them to a disease-ridden hell-on-earth in Somalia. And the Obama administration began urging the Supreme Court to ignore the detainees’ appeals. And now it seems those periodic review boards were–what would the president call them? Just words:

The Obama administration has begun limiting the legal rights of terror suspects held at the Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba, telling a federal judge Tuesday the government alone should decide when the prisoners deserve regular access to their counsel.

In a 52-page filing, Justice Department lawyers said they have started restricting when Guantanamo prisoners can challenge their detention in a Washington-based federal court. If approved, any relaxing of the rules would be made on a case-by-case basis at the exclusive discretion of military officials, not by the courts.

But doesn’t this seem to contradict the point of the administration’s periodic review executive order, which according to CNN has “not been fully implemented”? Indeed it does, and the Obama administration, having misplaced its Hope and its Change and its New Brand of Politics, has a priceless explanation for it: “As a general matter, executive orders are viewed as management tools for implementing the president’s policies, not as legally binding documents that may be enforced against the executive branch.”

This is one reason this administration loves governing by executive order: Not only do the people’s representatives not get a say in the matter, but congressional legislation has the pesky attribute of being legally binding. To the Obama administration, the rule of law is a nice bumper sticker slogan, but in practice it’s for suckers and Republicans. Don’t bother Obama with such trifles–he’s got oceans to lower.

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A Ryan Pick Could Shape GOP Future

While most of us are focusing on the obvious impact Mitt Romney’s vice presidential pick might have on the 2012 election, a feature in Politico today highlights the fact that his choice may influence future elections as well. Choosing someone like Paul Ryan, who is not only young, but the intellectual leader of his party, could well set the Wisconsin congressman up as the putative frontrunner in subsequent presidential elections whether or not the 2012 ticket is successful.

The debate about the vice presidential pick is, as Politico notes, something of a stand in for the broader argument about the future of the Republican Party. Should Romney go with Ryan it could mean that the reformist wing of the party will not only get a boost but have its leader put in a position from which he may well dominate the party. On the other hand, picking a more conventional figure like Sen. Rob Portman would serve as a brake on the conservative thinkers who want to help change Washington. The elevation of Ryan could, as Rep. Tom Cole tells Politico, be akin to Ronald Reagan choosing Jack Kemp as his running mate in 1980 rather than establishment favorite George H.W. Bush. Had Reagan tapped Kemp, it is probable that neither the elder nor the younger Bush would have ever been president. It is impossible to say in such a counter-factual scenario how else history would have been changed, but it is a reminder that there’s a lot more at stake in this decision than the impact on this November or even who will be presiding over the Senate next year.

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While most of us are focusing on the obvious impact Mitt Romney’s vice presidential pick might have on the 2012 election, a feature in Politico today highlights the fact that his choice may influence future elections as well. Choosing someone like Paul Ryan, who is not only young, but the intellectual leader of his party, could well set the Wisconsin congressman up as the putative frontrunner in subsequent presidential elections whether or not the 2012 ticket is successful.

The debate about the vice presidential pick is, as Politico notes, something of a stand in for the broader argument about the future of the Republican Party. Should Romney go with Ryan it could mean that the reformist wing of the party will not only get a boost but have its leader put in a position from which he may well dominate the party. On the other hand, picking a more conventional figure like Sen. Rob Portman would serve as a brake on the conservative thinkers who want to help change Washington. The elevation of Ryan could, as Rep. Tom Cole tells Politico, be akin to Ronald Reagan choosing Jack Kemp as his running mate in 1980 rather than establishment favorite George H.W. Bush. Had Reagan tapped Kemp, it is probable that neither the elder nor the younger Bush would have ever been president. It is impossible to say in such a counter-factual scenario how else history would have been changed, but it is a reminder that there’s a lot more at stake in this decision than the impact on this November or even who will be presiding over the Senate next year.

Of course, it’s easy to imagine scenarios in which this picture of a rosy Ryan future is derailed. Ryan could prove a flop on the national stage, though given his experience in the Washington maelstrom as the center of debates on the budget and entitlement reform that seems unlikely. A greater danger is that as a vice presidential candidate Ryan would be the focus of an intense Democratic campaign whose intent would be to demonize him and brand both Romney and the Republican party as villains intent on pushing grandma off the cliff. The toll such Mediscare tactics may exact on the GOP should not be underestimated, and that may explain the reluctance on the part of many Republicans to endorse Ryan as a possible veep.

But though Democrats may be as excited about a Ryan pick as some Republicans, he should not be underestimated. Ryan will be a formidable asset for Romney, and even Republicans who are leery about him may change their minds once they take a closer look and see how his serious approach can connect with voters. Indeed, here the comparison with Kemp may be instructive. Kemp was the favorite of supply side conservatives and an admirable man whom many believed was destined for the White House. But, as even he admitted, he had already had his dream job — as an NFL quarterback — and he may have lacked the fire to get to the top in politics. Bob Dole would pick Kemp as his veep choice in 1996, but there was nothing the former QB could do to inject life into that hopeless attempt to defeat Bill Clinton. Ryan is as knowledgeable as Kemp was about tax and budget issues but appears to be more focused on what it takes to succeed in Washington.

Ryan is, according to Chuck Todd of NBC News, one of the three finalists in the GOP veep race along with Portman and Tim Pawlenty. We don’t really know how any of them will play this fall, but there’s little doubt that Ryan is the choice that brings with it the most risk as well as the most reward for Romney. But if Ryan is the choice, it will not only place him at the head of the line as a presidential nominee in 2016 or 2020 (depending on whether Romney wins) but will give the ideas he stands for a bigger audience. For those who believe the nation’s future rests on our willingness to listen to voices of reason like Ryan who understand that entitlements must be reformed, there is more resting on Romney’s decision than the pundits may think.

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Sleazy Super PAC Ad’s Claim Debunked

The pro-Obama Priorities USA ad that blames Mitt Romney for the death of a steeelworker’s wife is even sleazier than it initially sounded. CNN reports that the wife of former GST Steel employee Joe Soptic had health insurance through her own job, despite the ad’s claim that she lost her insurance when her husband was laid off (video via HotAir):

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The pro-Obama Priorities USA ad that blames Mitt Romney for the death of a steeelworker’s wife is even sleazier than it initially sounded. CNN reports that the wife of former GST Steel employee Joe Soptic had health insurance through her own job, despite the ad’s claim that she lost her insurance when her husband was laid off (video via HotAir):

The Obama campaign and the White House has refused to condemn the ad, even as they’re benefiting from its dishonest smears. On “Morning Joe” today, Obama’s campaign adviser Robert Gibbs filibustered for an entire segment as he was pressed to respond to the ad:

“The message is a little over the top. Can’t you admit that?” [Joe] Scarborough asked.

“I don’t know the specifics of this person’s case,” Gibbs said.

“What specifics would you like to know?” Time magazine’s Mark Halperin asked. Gibbs said he didn’t know the specifics of the woman’s health care coverage. It’s been reported Soptic’s wife had health care through another employer.

Stephanie Cutter, Obama’s deputy campaign manager, also declined to condemn the Priorities ad, and used a question about it to shine a negative light on Romney’s business record.

“You do know that we don’t have anything to do with Priorities USA,” Cutter said on CNN’s “Starting Point.” “By law, we’re not allowed to coordinate with them, and by law, we don’t have anything to do with their ads. I don’t know the facts of when Joe’s wife got sick or when she died. But as I said before, I do know the facts of what Mitt Romney did with GS Steel. I do know the facts of how Joe lost his job and his health care. The entire company went bankrupt. But Mitt Romney walked away with a pretty hefty profit.”

The Obama campaign has been warning for months that this election will be influenced by sleazy, false ads outsourced to third-party groups. They were right — and they’re the ones who are doing it.

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Palestinian “President” Nears Record

Next week, Mahmoud Abbas will enter the 92nd month of his 48-month term, and now has Yasser Arafat’s record in sight. Arafat was elected president of the Palestinian Authority in 1996, running essentially unopposed (his opponent was a 72-year old woman with no political party). In 2004, in the ninth year of his four-year term, he left office on account of death. His second-in-command was elected president less than two months later, running essentially unopposed (Hamas boycotted the election). Abbas is now midway through the eighth year of his own four-year term, almost certain to break Arafat’s record if he can just stay healthy.

Next month, Abbas plans to return to the UN to seek recognition of a virtual Palestinian state — having already rejected a real one back when he was actually in office. Khaled Abu Toameh writes that Abbas’s decision to return to the UN is a ploy to avoid internal problems and extort more funds from the U.S. and Europe. But rather than sinking more money into another Palestinian president who rejects a state if the price is recognition of a Jewish one in defensible borders, perhaps it is time for a long-overdue review of U.S. policy.

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Next week, Mahmoud Abbas will enter the 92nd month of his 48-month term, and now has Yasser Arafat’s record in sight. Arafat was elected president of the Palestinian Authority in 1996, running essentially unopposed (his opponent was a 72-year old woman with no political party). In 2004, in the ninth year of his four-year term, he left office on account of death. His second-in-command was elected president less than two months later, running essentially unopposed (Hamas boycotted the election). Abbas is now midway through the eighth year of his own four-year term, almost certain to break Arafat’s record if he can just stay healthy.

Next month, Abbas plans to return to the UN to seek recognition of a virtual Palestinian state — having already rejected a real one back when he was actually in office. Khaled Abu Toameh writes that Abbas’s decision to return to the UN is a ploy to avoid internal problems and extort more funds from the U.S. and Europe. But rather than sinking more money into another Palestinian president who rejects a state if the price is recognition of a Jewish one in defensible borders, perhaps it is time for a long-overdue review of U.S. policy.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said yesterday there would be no diplomatic progress as long as Abbas remains in power, citing the “slanderous” letter the PA sent last month to the EU and Abbas’s failure to respond to recent Israeli steps, which included: thousands of additional work permits; advances of about $50 million to pay PA salaries before Ramadan; an agreement with the Palestinian Energy Authority for more electric power substations in the West Bank; new infrastructure projects in Area C; and removal of additional roadblocks.

The issue is more fundamental, however, than Abbas’s decision to ignore the latest Israeli efforts. He once demanded a construction freeze, got one for ten months in the West Bank, and ignored that too. He received an offer of a state from Ehud Olmert, who begged him to accept it, and ignored that as well, rejecting the urgings of both Secretary Rice and President Bush. He ignored the personal request of President Obama last year to call off the grandstanding trip to the UN and return to negotiations. He published a New York Times op-ed, replete with distortions, seeking recognition of the “long delayed Palestinian state” not to end claims but to “pave the way” to “pursue claims against Israel at the United Nations, human rights treaty bodies and the International Court of Justice.”

Abbas does not have the political legitimacy to negotiate a peace agreement, nor the power to implement one even if he did. But the broader policy issue is this: Palestinian political culture has now produced a terrorist tyranny in Gaza and a faux democracy in the West Bank, unable even to hold local elections, lacking the civil, legal, and political institutions necessary to prevent the winner of its Potemkin presidential elections from serving as president-for-life. Why should the U.S. continue to support the creation of an already failed state?

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Egyptians Reevaluate Their Real Enemies

As I noted yesterday, the Muslim Brotherhood is busily propagating conspiracy theories about Israeli guilt for Sunday’s terror attack in Sinai, which killed 16 Egyptian soldiers. But there’s a bright side to this story: For the first time ever, many Egyptians aren’t buying it.

True, dozens of demonstrators converged on the Israeli ambassador’s house Monday to demand his expulsion, asserting that Israel was to blame. But the real mob scene occurred at the slain soldiers’ funerals – where crowds chanted slogans denouncing not Israel, but the Muslim Brotherhood, and physically attacked a representative of the Brotherhood-led government, Prime Minister Hesham Kandil.

Nor did the media blindly regurgitate the usual conspiracy theories of Israeli guilt: They duly reported the Egyptian military’s assertion that the attack was perpetrated by terrorists from Sinai aided by Palestinians from the Gaza Strip. Prominent Egyptian commentators even criticized the army for ignoring the intelligence warning Israel had shared, and President Mohammed Morsi for pardoning thousands of radical Islamists and freeing them from jail. And both in television interviews and on social media sites, many ordinary Egyptians blamed the attack not on Israel, but on Morsi, for having reopened the Gaza-Egypt border.

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As I noted yesterday, the Muslim Brotherhood is busily propagating conspiracy theories about Israeli guilt for Sunday’s terror attack in Sinai, which killed 16 Egyptian soldiers. But there’s a bright side to this story: For the first time ever, many Egyptians aren’t buying it.

True, dozens of demonstrators converged on the Israeli ambassador’s house Monday to demand his expulsion, asserting that Israel was to blame. But the real mob scene occurred at the slain soldiers’ funerals – where crowds chanted slogans denouncing not Israel, but the Muslim Brotherhood, and physically attacked a representative of the Brotherhood-led government, Prime Minister Hesham Kandil.

Nor did the media blindly regurgitate the usual conspiracy theories of Israeli guilt: They duly reported the Egyptian military’s assertion that the attack was perpetrated by terrorists from Sinai aided by Palestinians from the Gaza Strip. Prominent Egyptian commentators even criticized the army for ignoring the intelligence warning Israel had shared, and President Mohammed Morsi for pardoning thousands of radical Islamists and freeing them from jail. And both in television interviews and on social media sites, many ordinary Egyptians blamed the attack not on Israel, but on Morsi, for having reopened the Gaza-Egypt border.

Moreover, the outrage shifted the balance of power between the army and the Brotherhood in the cabinet, enabling the army’s representative, Defense Minister Hussein Tantawi, to force Morsi to seal the Egypt-Gaza border “indefinitely,” just days after having triumphantly reopened it. The army also poured troops accompanied by bulldozers into the Gaza border region to begin sealing the Gaza-Sinai smuggling tunnels – a step Israel had long pleaded for in vain. It even launched its first-ever air strikes on suspected terrorists in Sinai.

Finally, the public outrage seems to have emboldened Egyptian liberals: Former parliamentarian Mohammed Abu Hamed, for instance, launched a blistering attack on Morsi in which he even took the courageous step of defending the peace with Israel.

“The president bears responsibility for this [Sunday’s attack], which was caused by actions his government has taken recently, such as opening the crossings and giving amnesty for Islamist detainees,” Abu Hamed told his followers via Facebook.

“These exceptional measures, which allowed the opening of the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip without any security measures, allowed the entry of a large number of extremist religious groups from al-Qaeda and others to Sinai in addition to the elements of Hamas,” Abu Hamed charged. “It is known that these groups have beliefs and ideas of jihadists who are seeking to involve Egypt in a new conflict with Israel. This is in addition to the president-elect’s decision to release a number of extremists, some of them facing death sentences… which is spreading extremist ideas again in breach of the peace agreement, something that is not in the public interest.”

There’s no guarantee any of this will last: Anti-Israel incitement has been the norm in Egypt for decades, and anti-Israel sentiment runs deep. But if Sunday’s attack proves the start of a process that leads ordinary Egyptians to reevaluate who their real enemies are, that would be an enormous boon not only for Israel, but for the prospects of a lasting Middle East peace.

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